Is Universal Studios Japan Worth Visiting in 2024?

Universal Studios Japan has become a staple for any trip to Osaka and it is not hard to see why. With 10 (soon to be 11) unique lands to explore each filled to the brim with weird and wonderful rides, attractions, performances and food to match there is something for everyone, but do not get it twisted, this is no ordinary theme park.

You see, I’ve been to some of the biggest theme parks around the world even taking on Tokyo Disneyland days prior to warm me up for the Japanese spin on childhood nostalgia, but this is the biggest theme park in Asia we are talking about here and you best believe you will need a bloody big UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN SURVIVAL GUIDE to truly make the most of it.

And like most things I’ve built my career on as a brutally honest travel blogger not afraid to showcase the realistic, unique and embarrassing side to travel, I have made all of the mistakes so you don’t have to. Here to spill all the secrets on everything you need to know about Universal Studios Japan (USJ)!

Where is Universal Studios Japan?

You will find Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
More specifically on the outskirts of the city in 📌Osaka Bay Area.

Yet the park remains easily accessible from Osaka’s bustling city centre and other major cities in the Kansai region like Kyoto or Kobe.

How to get to Universal Studios Japan from Osaka?

🚆Taking the train to USJ

Universal Studios Japan is located at Universal-City Station on the JR Yumesaki Line/JR Sakurajima Line. The line is well connected to central Osaka through the Osaka Loop Line, just remember to swap at Nishikujo Station.

For more specific routes and timings, Universal Studios have a great page of transport infographics here.

Follow the signs, or more likely, the flood of people to the main USJ park gates. It is only a 5 minute walk away from the station through the Universal City Walk, making it impossible to get lost but easy to get distracted.

🚕 Taking a Car to USJ

With everything from Uber, Taxis, and shuttles to car rentals and parking onsite available it makes getting to Universal Studios Japan accessible from almost anywhere but be warned, it isn’t the most affordable option.

However, taking a car to Universal Studios might be worth the splurge if:

  • You have a bigger group to split the cost
  • Similarly, you have a bigger group/family you don’t want to lose in the crowds of public transport
  • You simply want to be boujee. Hey, no judgement here!
  • You are not staying near a train line.
    Although if this is the case but you are still money conscious, I recommend getting an Uber/Taxi to Nishikujo Station to get the train from there as there will be a surcharge to go all the way to Universal Studios given its popularity.

⛴Taking the Ferry to USJ

Can you believe there is a ferry service named the “Captain Line” that links Universal Studios Japan with the Osaka Aquarium!? It’s like you can start the day with an attraction before you even enter the park!

A 10 minute ride across the bay with 1-2 ferries running per hour. For 900 yen one way, 1700 yen roundtrip with a combination ferry/aquarium ticket option available too.

BONUS TIP: How we beat the morning rush
Like many of us, I have a love hate relationship with Google Maps but move over Harry Potter, it was the real wizard for our day at USJ. We were able to test different times and routes in preparation to avoid peak times, delays and specifically told us what train carriage was the best to be on for the easiest exit at Universal-City Station.

Is Universal Studios Japan worth visiting in 2024?

It was the first Universal branded theme-park built for Asia back in 2001 but with its recent launch of the famous Super Nintendo World and the late 2024 opening of Donkey Kong Country, it’s no wonder it has skyrocketed to the biggest and most popular theme-park in Japan. But does bigger really mean better?

In this case, YES!
The beauty of its diversity of immersive worlds inspired by movies, shows and characters we have all grown up with no matter what age you are, means there is something for everyone at any time of day, for every adrenaline level.

Even if you have been to a Universal Studios park before, you would see, ride, eat, and experience something completely different at USJ.

Buying Tickets for Universal Studios Japan

Buying tickets for Universal Studios Japan but making sure you buy the RIGHT tickets is where it gets a little complicated since there are so many types of passes, add ons and exceptions.

To uncomplicate things, I recommend booking your tickets in advance through Klook. You will get instant confirmation with your e-ticket sent directly to your inbox and best of all, there are no pesky currency conversion fees.

Understanding the different USJ ticket types

    This is the base ticket you need to get into the park. There are 1, 1.5 and 2 day passes available
    This special pass is a mini VIP service letting you skip the morning queues to get in 15 minutes before the main gates open.
    For some of the newer and more popular worlds of USJ, they have strict time slots to manage the large crowds. I advise booking in advance as these slots are limited and often sell out.

    Good news is, on the main Klook USJ Studio Pass page, if you scroll down through their package options, there is a [SUPER NINTENDO WORLD™] + 1 Day Studio Pass available.
    Skip the long lines with one-time use fast passes on varied groups of the most popular attractions and rides around the park. Up to 12 unique packages make sure there is an express pass for everyone no matter if you’re looking for fun, thrills or the full 7 pack variety pass.

Is the Universal Studios Japan Express pass worth it?

There’s no denying that the express pass is PRICEY. In fact, it can get up to over double your standard studio pass on top of you already having to purchase the studio pass that is.

For me and my partner, the express was absolutely worth it to stay sane during the peak season chaos. Whereas my cousin and her friend went on the same day without it and still had the time of their lives but where does that leave you?

To put it simply I would say if you are like me; hate wasting time in lines, get irritated in big crowds, want to share the ride experience with a loved one and/or have the budget to spare then the Express pass is worth the investment

If you are more like my cousin; on a tighter budget, or want to spend it on food/merch instead, don’t mind using the single rider lines to save time instead, was smart enough to buy the standard studio pass with the timed entry slot, then it’s probably not worth the splurge.

Best things to do in Universal Studios Japan

📲 Firstly, Download the USJ App from the app store

I am not going to lie, the app itself is pretty garbage, notably after coming from Tokyo Disneyland it was very apparent that Universal does not compare or live up to its potential on this side of things.

Despite its flaws, the USJ app is worth downloading ahead of your visit. With it you can navigate its evolving worlds with it live map, check attraction wait times and descriptions, secure timed entry tickets and save your favourites.

Book a timed-entry slot for Super Nintendo World

You can not go to USJ without taking a mystical green pipe into the brand new technicolour masterpiece that is Super Nintendo World (and soon-to-be Donkey Kong Country expansion).

US$575 million dollars and 5 years later, we regular folks finally get to level-up into one of the most recognisable universes in the world to try Chef Toad’s cooking in Kinopios Cafe, meet our favourite characters and don’t forget about taking on the most iconic Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge.

To do so, you will need to buy a timed entry add-on to your ticket, splurge on an express pass or risk it for any leftover slots the day of. Ideally, not the last one.

MY USJ MONEY SAVING TIP: Do not buy the power up bands and this is coming from a Nintendo nerd. These bands are said to bring the Super Mario Games into real life with hidden challenges throughout the world but unless you plan to spend majority of your day in SNW, I personally do not this there is enough value to justify the cost.
I don’t know about you but I do not want to wait up to 30min wait just to punch a block…

Swing by the stunt show in WaterWorld

A heart-racing, interactive, explosive 20-minute show takes place in the dystopian set from the movie Water World. This has to be the most underrated attraction in USJ with the survival hack no one is talking about!

It runs several times throughout the day giving you the perfect chance to rest your legs without feeling like you’re missing out on the full theme park experience by doing so.

Dance along with your favourite characters at the
NO LIMIT! Music Festival

An action-packed parade takes over the main streets of USJ bringing your favourite characters to life from Minions to Mario. Be warned, the song will be in your head for months!

BONUS TIP: if the parade is not your thing, this is the perfect time to take on those bigger rides without the crowds since everyone else will be at the parade.

Get lost in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You could be the world’s bigger Potterhead, or someone like me who has never watched all of the movies (don’t judge), and still find the charm in exploring the recreation of the iconic Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle.

As it hits its 10 year anniversary, there are more secrets amongst its many alleyways and interactive surprises than ever before that have kept people from all around just as excited about experiencing the magic for themselves as the day it opened.

Yeah, its immersive wand experiences, hearty foods, mouth-watering butter beer and famous Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster are more than enough to solidify this world into a fan favourite but just wait until you discover that it is home to what was awarded THE BEST RIDE IN THE WORLD; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

BONUS TIP: Beware of height/Weight restrictions… and I am not talking about the ones for kids. As someone who is closer to the kids level, I’ve never had to worry about it but at 6’6”+, Jedd was constantly pulled aside and barely made it on to a handful of rides. Universal Studios Japan is made with Japanese Standards in Mind.

Pick out the perfect headband or hat

Universal Studios Japan merch stand

You can tell USJ has learnt a lot from the huge success of Japan’s 2 Disney Parks and it is glaringly obvious within its merch offerings. Yes, Disney might have an extensive collection of Mickey Mouse ears but does it have a stuffed Yoshi that can sit on your head?!

It’s hilariously fun trying on a weird and wonderful range of hats, headbands and accessories of your favourite characters. Made even better by pointing out who you match or guessing peoples’ personalities based on their choice throughout your day.

A way to level up your day at USJ and the Instagram photos you’ll post from it!

What to eat at Universal Studios Japan?

With videos of the endless wacky-themed treats of USJ going viral across the internet, the food has become one of the most popular attractions of the park, so much so, it is deserving of it’s own section in this post.

The tricky part about deciding what to eat at USJ is that the food is not in only one section of the park. It’s spread throughout to match the themed food with each of its worlds and characters. So here is what you need to know about how to best navigate it.

Girl smiling while holding two cups of butter beer in front of Hogwarts Castle in Universal Studios Japan

The different types of food available at Universal Studios Japan

On-the-go food and drinks: Eat your way through each world’s staple snacks. These are the smaller meals, often from the takeaway stands across the park but there are more than enough to keep you going throughout the day

Casual Dining: These cafeteria-style restaurants offer a more relaxed dining opportunity. With slightly larger meals and portions than the above without the stress of needing to pre-book or line up for toooo long like the below range.

Sit-Down Restaurants: Go beyond finding a meal, as you step into an immersive dining experience, but be aware it will take a chunk of your day.

The most popular food at Universal Studios Japan

  • Butter Beer from Wizarding World of Harry Potter – not actual beer but more like an addictingly sweet creaming soda with caramel
  • Turkey Legs of Jurrasic Park – !controversial opinion alert! Disney does it better
  • Minions Ice Cream Sandwich from Delicious Me!
  • Pikachu Pizza Buns – a personal highlight
  • Green Shell Calzone at Yoshi’s Snack Island – a personal lowlight. Yoshi’s Lassi was a much-needed treat to wash it down with
  • All of the Churros
  • Dining at Kinopios Cafe in Super Nintendo World – otherwise known as Toad’s Cafe

Is the food at Universal Studios Japan really worth the hype and money? My brutally honest review

Universal Studios Japan had some of the most overhyped and overpriced food we tried on our entire trip.

It’s hard not to compare it to Tokyo Disneyland which has nailed their uniquely nostalgic offerings balanced with reasonable pricing (for theme-park standards) whereas I found USJ fell short on both.

It didn’t help that it was so insanely busy we would have wasted half a day attempting a restaurant slot. Although I must admit, it was rather fun stumbling across random snacks throughout the day and above all, BUTTER BEER makes everything better

MY USJ MONEY SAVING TIP: Share meals to try more things – We wanted to try a lot of different treats and to be honest, they were not all that great so I am glad we didn’t get one each haha. Anything we did love, we went back for seconds or thirds if we are talking butter beer…

Where to stay near Universal Studios Japan

The best part about Universal Studios Japan being so well connected to the heart of Osaka means there are endless accommodation options.
The worst part about that is there are ENDLESS ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS to sift through. Here are my top recommendations for your trip to narrow down the search: 

Universal Studios Japan Partner Hotel Option: THE SINGULARI HOTEL & SKYSPA is within easy walking distance of Centro and all major attractions. It includes all the facilities you would expect from a self-contained property including fast internet, a kitchen and a washing machine.

Hostel Option: First Cabin Nishi Umeda is a highly-rated 2-star capsule hotel set in the centre of Osaka yet only 15 minutes by train away from Universal Studios Japan.

Budget Option: Hotel She Osaka is a 3-star hotel brand making a name for itself in Japan with it “industrial sexy” vibe, quirky rooms each with their own record players and drool worthy pizza. Many reviews specifically mention the ease of getting to USJ and the free breakfast.

Mid-Range Option: Dormy Inn Premium Namba Natural Hot Spring is part of a 4-star modern onsen hotel chain that we can not get enough of. Unlimited yakults and ice-cream, plus free late night ramen are made even better with onsen access, all located in the heart of Osaka. But it was the free massage chairs that were a game-changer coming home from a big day at USJ!

Luxury OptionThe Westin Osaka is a 5-star hotel boasting so many amenities, it feels like a theme park itself… from an acupuncture salon, indoor pool and hot tub, 4 dining options, shuttle to Osaka Station, and spacious rooms with sweeping city views. You’ll be spoilt inside and out.

Common questions about Universal Studios Japan

What are the Universal Studios Japan Park Hours?

The official park opening times are from 9:00 to 20:00. These often vary with extended hours on weekends and admission often starting earlier than the scheduled opening time to avoid crowd build-up.

BONUS TIP: Get the the park at least 2hrs before scheduled opening!
It seems like overkill but trust me, they opened the gates 7:30am (yes, 1 and half hours before scheduling opening time!) for us and that doesn’t include the ‘early entry’ package option, which grants visitors 15 minutes early access to the park.

What to pack for a day at Universal Studios Japan?

Firstly, there are lockers for hire at the park entry if you do have excess to carry as well as most attractions having their own lockers for personal items while you ride.

HOWEVER, the lighter you pack, the easier it is going to be for you, particularly with all the walking and dancing around you will be doing.

Ultimately, it’s more so about what to wear and even then you want to keep it simple and comfortable; good walking shoes, sunglasses, a jacket, maybe a raincoat (weather pending)…

Can you do Universal Studios Japan in one day?

Absolutely! If anything, I would say 1 day is all you need.
Due to miserable weather, we left the park a few hours early yet still felt satisfied we did everything we set out to do.

Do they speak English at Universal Studios Japan?

English is widely spoken across the park but all the rides are in Japanese.
For some that takes away from the experience but I personally thought it made for a totally cool, unique one. Like, hell yeah I want to know what Japanese Gru and his minions sound like.

Is Universal Studios Japan Worth Visiting? My brutally honest opinion.

Personally I will still say yes but maybe not with as much gusto as the YES! in the general section above.

There is no doubt Universal Studios is insanely impressive. After all, it is the extraordinary attention to detail you should expect from the world-renowned Universal brand paired with the next-level innovation of Japanese culture.

However, it didn’t quite live up to my very high expectations for the theme park which is why I want to help better set yours.

MISTAKE 1: it was peak cherry blossom season

Look, this one is completely on us and frankly, we were already extra bitter about it because of a cold snap that delayed the blooms. So instead we got all of the sakura season crowds but no actual cherry blossoms.

SOLUTION: How to avoid the crowds at USJ

Weekdays will be your best friend besides a few key exceptions you’ll want to note for your planning. The key times to avoid/reconsider Universal Studios Japan are:

  • public holidays
  • Japan Golden Week – falls between April 29 and May 5 every year
  • The New Year holidays
  • Second week of July to August peak season
  • Sakura/cherry blossom season (like us)

MISTAKE 2: not expecting it to be the most expensive day of our Japan trip

It is the Japanese version of Universal Studios but it still has American pricing which will be quite a shock to the budget. And if you are anything like us, that budget had become very accustomed to the convenience store lifestyle.

SOLUTION: How to save money at Universal Studios Japan

  1. Grab a convenience store breakfast before you go – It’s perfect to eat while you wait in line for the gates to open. Saving you time, money and energy for when you go in!
  2. Be flexible with your itinerary – ticket and express pass pricing varies day by day.
  3. Bring your own water – limited to one 500 ml container per person

Now, now, now, don’t get it twisted we still had a blast at Universal Studios Japan and would go back again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself…

SO is Universal Studios worth visiting? YES… just not in peak season.

There’s nothing quite like the froth of butter beer touching your lips to the Mario Party fever dream of walking into Super Nintendo World for the first time, we even got a glimpse of the new Donkey Kong Country land and attraction being tested which already appears to go above and beyond.

What are you waiting for? Get your tickets here for 10% off with code DONUTKLOOK

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